Short story from Sarah Widdup

The Mermaid on Foot

The beach stretched out further than usually sea-bound feet could comfortably wander, all elastic-quicksand and sucking at soles and souls. Water lapped at the mermaid’s toes, and it was all the colder for the toes not being a tail, not glittering with scales as one would expect.

As she walked, she imagined each toe to be a tiny tail, shifting and blurring until wispy fin ends replaced the toenails. When her big toe-tail hit something solid, she thought she’d turned the beach to stone with her dreaming, but as her eyes focused she found a treasure underfoot.

It was a smooth, milky-white piece of sea-glass, and she bent to pick it up, flicking off the wet sand and tracing its edges with her finger. There was one tiny chip where she could see the lost clarity of the glass, and it sparkled as she turned it over and over in her hand. The glass was shaped like a shark’s tooth, jagged and curved, though its sharpness had been lost in the tide.

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Richard Slota’s historical novel Stray Son, reviewed by Cristina Deptula




Richard Slota’s Stray Son is a rough edged, tough minded historical family drama.

The book presents a grand tour of midwestern America in the 1940s, showing off our manufacturing and farming heartland. We learn about the thrill of driving a vintage automobile and of the work that went into maintaining the planes that helped us win the Second World War. My parents were nostalgic about Route 66 after browsing the novel!

The novel’s action kicks off when main character Patrick Yaworsky, a middle aged man who is estranged from his extended family and dissatisfied with his job and life, discovers the young ghost of his deceased father. He and his dad take his wife and two children from Southern California to Sioux City, Iowa to attend the father’s funeral. His deceased father takes everyone on a journey in time back to when he served in the Marines. While Stray Son has plenty of endearing, helpful side characters and interesting vintage Americana, it never lapses into uncritical nostalgia. The family’s adopted black son Mike faces prejudice in 1942 that reminds us of social progress that we have made in some ways, and we see through the radio news and the father’s conversation that people in that age lived with a very real fear that Hitler was going to win the war.

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Essay from Christopher Bernard

The Present Emergency

By Christopher Bernard

On November 8, 2016, we witnessed a kind of political 9/11, a Brexit as nuclear bomb. It felt like being given a diagnosis of terminal cancer for our society, our civilization, our way of life, or witnessing the sack of Rome by Alaric.

It isn’t the first time many of us have seen the barbarians swarm over American society: we saw it during the years of George W. Bush, of Reagan, of Nixon, when it came from the right, and during the sixties when it came, for the most part, from the left. It is one reason that, from a very early age, I grew to feel a growing alarm and fear regarding a certain strain in American culture that cultivates and breeds, preens and admires, some of the worst aspects of human nature, in the name of “freedom” to the point of license, of “personal expression” to the point of mutual contempt, of “the common man” at the expense of uncommon honesty and decency—of what I eventually came to see was a hyper, paranoid, poisonous white masculinity that would gladly rip up the restraints and norms of civilization and culture if it felt its privileges, illegitimately labeled “rights,” were threatened.

The howling Yahoo (I think it is safe to call him) who will now lead our country will be such an exact emblem of the dark side of the soul of American culture that it will effectively terminate our reputation in the world for a long time to come, if it does not terminate the world itself. I am embarrassed (though also, being human, a little proud) of the fact that I predicted this outcome, in the middle of George W. Bush’s administration: that the next successful Republican president would be a populist, know-nothing authoritarian, an out-and-out “fascist.” But it is almost shameful to be right about such things.

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Poetry from M. Spear

what cog
and what art
makes, assembles
what name do
we give to this
we hardly know it
even as we roll
through its
I loved your soft
citrus voice
from years ago
I wondered what
ever became of you
then saw you
recognizing how
much time has
gone by.

Poetry from Michael Robinson

My Neighborhood

Dedicated to Ilyse Kusnetz

Rocks, bottles, sticks, and knives,

Straight razors, lye thrown in the face,

Human beings, and guns.

Prostitutes, pimps, ex-convicts, ex soldiers

Dope heads, gay men, rappers,

Grandmothers, Grandkids, and old black men,

Young hoodlums, and white priests.

Screaming children, yelling adults, gunfire,

Bottle fights, rock fights, knife fights, gunfights, and fist fights.

Old houses, burned down houses, and body bags,

I’m in the middle of it all before 21.

No normal thoughts, only homicidal and suicidal thoughts,

White therapist sends me away.

Mental hospitals, psychotic medication, sleeping pills,

And convulsive therapy treatment

Black America left me in pieces—

Now I’m civilized wearing a strait jacket and a padded room.

“Flop, flop, frizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is.”

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Poetry from Joan Beebe

The month of October is special to your mom and dad
For that is not only when you were born,
But when they met at a Halloween Party and were so glad
So round and round the room they did chase
And they had big smiles on their face.
Their love for each other seemed to bloom right away
They shared their lives and looked to the day
When the circle of their rings and the vows they made
Would together as one knew their love would never fade
Then, after some time, little Rosemary was born
Their joy knew no bounds as they gazed into your face
Love was completed as they held a baby of their own
When one October day you arrived and they brought you home.   

Rui Carvalho, Portuguese artist and software developer, reviews Beatrice Tillier and Tehy’s comic book Fees et Tendres Automates

A Journey to “Fees et tendres automates

Comics, or graphic novels, are considered the ninth out of the traditional, basic forms of art. In fact, comics can be seen as a result of the joint forces of several of the basic forms of art, for example, literature, drawing and architecture.

And, comics are certainly influenced by the world that surrounds the artist: the creator of the small world existing inside the book.

The book “Fees et tendres automates”, original title, in French, or “Fairies and Tender Automatons”, in English, by Béatrice Tillier and Téhy, is a portrait of a world dying due to a war provoked by man but, at the same time, it is a fairy tale, a platonic and electronic love story, between two robots: a tender automata boy and an ethereal robotic fairy. Both of them are a subtle sign of hope for that world. Interesting, is to notice that those two beings are the creation of a man, a scientist, and clearly behave more intelligently than most of the humans. They are Turing machines (Marcus du Sautoy, 1st April 2012), a concept of Artificial Intelligence; and although they lack the capability to feel physical pain, they experience emotional pain. This emotion-driven thought, according to António Damásio (1999), a neuroscientist, is obviously linked with intelligence.

At the end of the book, we clearly sense a strong frustration that might be the result of the deep enchantment of the magical brightness in the eyes of these two survivors, when they look to the crystalline light of the stars, in the dark night. All this, despite the menace of the end of “life” for these two creations, more human than those who fight around them. Yes, the story is a tragic conflict between violence and the automata, a creature so fragile that he has portable lips which he takes with him wherever he goes…

Furthermore, the magical and cool brightness of the synthetic skin, the red texture of the lips, the waves of the fire’s orange color, robots with celestial melancholic face expressions, a round drop of moisture and “illuminated” frustration, contrasting with the forgotten reasoning that could create a much better world, explains this possible feeling of seeing real people, not “created with sin”, as if they were a strange religious effort, but using science as its main (and unique) tool… a strange Dionysiac symbiosis.

Summing up, the book is far more than a collection of beautiful drawings, with subtle lines integrated with probably well chosen colors; it is a story, a romance, an adventure and, at the same time, an effort to make us think about our concept of life, emotions and logical intelligence, and if these two are separableor not. Something keeps us reading, maybe it is the search of a happy ending, due to the capabilities of our hero made of “silica feelings”.


Damásio, A. (1999), “The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness”, Harcourt Brace, pp. 386

Marcus du Sautoy (1st April 2012), “AI robot: how machine intelligence is evolving“, The Guardian

Rui M.

29 October 2016 to 3 November 2016